Fascism's Return: Scandal, Revision, and Ideology since 1980

By Richard J. Golsan | Go to book overview

Richard J. Golsan


Introduction

In 1994 the French historian and political commentator Jacques Julliard published a brief but highly polemical book in which he sought to diagnose what he considered to be a dangerous malady afflicting contemporary Europe. The symptoms of the malady were numerous, he argued, and could be detected in a variety of political, social, economic, and cultural developments. In Eastern Europe these included a resurgence of nationalism and ethnic hatreds coupled with persistent economic crises brought on by the collapse of communism. In Western Europe, the indecisiveness and weakness of the democracies in dealing with events such as the crisis in the former Yugoslavia were accompanied by an inability to resolve economic problems, especially chronic unemployment. Considered together, these symptoms formed a pattern that, according to Julliard, was hauntingly familiar. The combination of the collapse of empire, the growth of virulent nationalisms, unrelenting economic miseries, and democratic impotence was highly reminiscent of circumstances prevailing in Germany during the decline of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism. Indeed, all the ingredients necessary for a new "fashogenesis" were present. Given this assessment, it is not surprising that Julliard chose as the title of his book Ce Fascisme qui vient… (This fascism that is coming…).1

The dire prediction implicit in the title Ce Fascisme qui vient…as well as in Julliard's analysis of the European situation is not simply the excessive or alarmist view of one commentator. In France especially, other prominent intellectuals and public figures have recently compared the situation in the European democracies to the climate of the Weimar period in its declining and crisis-ridden final years. After an overview that embraces not only Europe but the recent genocide in Rwanda and the ongoing crisis in Algeria, Bernard-Henri Lévy offers the following apocalyptic assessment in La Pureté dangereuse: "When I look through history for an analogue to this malaise, when I seek a precedent for the disarray that is descending on the democracies, I can

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